Comedy podcasting has never offered more quality and variation

By Cory J. Willey

(Patrick Breitenbach/Flickr)
(Patrick Breitenbach/Flickr)

Podcasts offer one of the most unique experiences of all entertainment mediums. With more than 250,000 different podcasts available for free from the iTunes store, there is no shortage of content. Everyone from major news networks to people in their garage are able to record and upload their own original content.

All of this variation and openness means you can find a podcast on almost anything that peaks your interest. While NPR and the WNYC-produced shows dominate the top 15 spots of the “Top Podcasts” chart on iTunes, lurking just behind them is a thriving world of comedy podcasts.

Comedy enthusiasts can benefit most from the variation and niche-quality of podcasts. Whether you just want to hear comedians interviewing one another and gain some insight into the current comedy scene or find your favorite comedian’s podcast just to keep up with what they are working on, you can do so with a free subscription.

Everyone from professional comedians to YouTubers are creating podcasts to gather larger audiences. With so much content listed under “comedy” and with each episode generally running about an hour long, it can be intimidating to tell which shows are really worth your time.

A good show to start with is “The Nerdist,” an interview-based podcast hosted by Chris Hardwick as well as his friends and fellow comedians Matt Mira and Jonah Ray. The show posts three days a week and usually features a celebrity guest interviewee.

Hardwick, Mira and Ray have known each other for a long time and have terrific chemistry, making nearly every episode interesting, even if you aren’t familiar the celebrity guest of the episode. By far the best episodes are what Hardwick and company have dubbed “Hostfuls,” in which there is no celebrity guest and the three friends and co-hosts just talk with one another, sharing personal stories and discussing current events and pop culture. These are a good starting point for new listeners.

If you are looking for something based more in improv, then “Comedy Bang Bang: The Podcast” is your best bet. Scott Aukerman hosts one of the most delightfully chaotic and hilarious podcasts available. The show plays on the usual celebrity-guest interview format, but adds the twist of character-based improvisation to the show.

Typically, Aukerman will interview the guest for 20 to 30 minutes when inevitably an “unexpected guest” arrives. This is usually another comedian playing a character they have created for the program. Fan-favorites include Bobby Moynihan’s murderous orphan Fourvel, Jessica St. Clair’s boisterous teen persona Marissa Wompler and really anyone played by the incredible Paul F. Thompkins.

Aukerman and the guest spend the rest of the episode interviewing and interacting with the unexpected guest character, discussing their lives and discovering why they have dropped by the podcast. “Comedy Bang Bang” celebrates the end of each year with a number of “Best Of…” episodes, offering a good introduction for any newcomers. You’ll get a taste of what the show is all about and have the benefit of hearing only the higher quality episodes.

Buried deep within the top charts of iTunes’ ever growing list of comedy podcasts is “Harmontown.” Writer and creator of shows such as “Community” and “Rick and Morty,” Dan Harmon hosts his podcast in front of a live audience at the Nerdmelt Showroom in Los Angeles, California with friend and comptroller Jeff B. Davis. Harmon discusses everything from comedy and pop culture to current events and politics with his girlfriend, Erin McGathy.

More than anything, Harmon talks about himself, extending the semi-infamous reputation that he is a narcissist. With recurring guests such as Kumail Nanjiani and Bobcat Goldthwait, as well as the constant inclusion of fans at the theater, Dungeons and Dragons with resident dungeon master Spencer Crittenden and Harmon’s signature freestyle raps, the show has a consistent sense of surprise and familiarity each episode. Harmon allows full insight into his life and creative process, which is wonderful to hear, especially if you are a fan of him and his work.

Comedy podcasting is an ever-growing medium, filled to the brim with quality content for any and all tastes. These podcasts are an excellent reflection of the quality in the genre, but to really find the comedy podcast to suit your taste, find a comedian you recognize and listen to their podcast, as they almost definitely have one.

Cory J. Willey can be reached at [email protected]